LeSean Thomas On Netflix’s Upcoming ‘Cannon Busters’ And The Creative Cross-Cultural Future Of Anime

The writer and director LeSean Thomas.

One of the big new series picked up by Netflix recently was LeSean Thomas’ Cannon Busters. While I reviewed the pilot a while back, I thought it worth talking with the man behind this new series and how the Netflix deal came about.

If you read my review of the Cannon Busters pilot, you would have realized that I am a big advocate for the cross-cultural aspect when it comes to anime production.

Cannon Busters is also one of 12 new anime funded by Netflix, as the company is making a large push into the medium with new and original content.

While it is important to realize that this is not a new thing in anime, what made that Cannon Busters pilot so special was how unfettered it was in terms of this kind of creative collaboration.

cannon_busters_pilot

However, before I get to all that. I wanted to know more about LeSean’s background and his interest in anime as a medium, not to mention how he got into working in animation in the first place.

“I started off aspiring to be a comic book illustrator. As a kid growing up in the Bronx, NYC, I’d always drawn my own comic book ideas in Elementary School. My elders were supportive of anything that kept me out of trouble and didn’t mind me disappearing into my own world with art. Having friends in school that would also participate in drawing activities with me helped create a safe space for me to indulge in it further as I grew up. Well into my late teens, my dream was to eventually become the next comic book star like Jim Lee, or Joe Madureira, but that didn’t exactly work out. My passion in illustration led me to be hired as a designer in children’s accessories design for a few years, then becoming a character designer and layout artist on web cartoon projects in the late 90s, to creating and directing my own short web-series project, to then eventually working in TV animation production (MTV Commercials, Disney’s Lizzie McGuire Show) at the turn of the century. After 911, I had a brief, 3-year stint in independent comic books as a sequential artist before eventually jumping back into TV animation production full-time with The Boondocks animated series. The rest was history.

“In terms of my first exposure to anime, I would have to say Robotech. So Super Dimension Fortress MacrossSuper Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. At the time, of course, I didn’t realize it was “anime” as the Western, marketing descriptor labeled it, it was just a cartoon to me that came on very early in the mornings before school around 6am. I’d wake up super early just to catch this show when I could. I knew right away this show, its look, style and the shows I’d later encounter like it were different from what I’d grown accustomed to with broadcast networks at the time. These weren’t your typical Merry Melodies or Looney Tunes productions. Characters in these shows were written in ways that showcased incredible depth; they would face intense, narrative stakes, they cried, suffered existential crises, they even died. I was fascinated and absolutely addicted. I also think my aspirations to be a comic book illustrator as a kid piqued my interest in watching more of these Japanese animated shows because they displayed a level of draftsmanship, environmental design techniques and cinematic film composition qualities absent in Looney Tunes/Hanna Barbera shows, yet mirrored the approach comics illustration styles which appealed to me. keep reading

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